On Wednesday night we found out that Mike Ashley had not only upset the fans and Rafa Benitez – but that once again he was in a stand-off with the Newcastle players.
Last summer the owner refused to agree to a bonus scheme for the squad, that was commensurate with what happens at all the other Premier League clubs.
That dispute was only settled a month into the season when Jamaal Lascelles made contact with Mike Ashley and sorted it.
This time it has happened again, it becoming public when the players refused to speak to the media after the game in Braga (read below).
Embarrassingly for Ashley, this included the official club media.
The dispute is still going on, with the Newcastle squad once again coming to a collective decision not to speak to the press after Saturday’s defeat to Augsburg. They also once again snubbed the official NUFC media, meaning only Rafa Benitez spoke to the club channels of communication after the game.
Difficult to imagine how the club could be in worse shape only days before the season starts, bonus schemes not the biggest issue in the world, but indicative of the chaos and neglect within the club. As the owner seemingly does everything he can to make life as difficult as possible for his manager.
Rafa Benitez asked if the squad’s dispute with Mike Ashley has meant the team’s attitude hasn’t been right for matches:
“Maybe it wasn’t before the game against Braga.
“Today? I will tell you yes.
“I think the players will tell you that our job is to perform on the pitch and I can’t complain about the players, or the way they approached this game.
“Their attitude is right now and it has to be the same for the whole season.
“For us, it is about the team and last year we saw the team spirit, that was the key.
“So it has to be the key (this) next year.”
The Mag – 2 August 2018:
Things are going from bad to worse under Mike Ashley in this pre-season.
Yet again there has been zero investment in the training ground, the Academy, St James Park, and of course no net investment in the first team squad, transfers currently showing tens of millions of pounds in credit this summer.
Last night, Rafa Benitez went public with how bad things are on the transfer front and how he has been let down. Holding out little hope that he expects the club to properly deliver on transfers in the remaining week of the window.
After the 4-0 hammering by Braga, the Newcastle players refused to speak to the media.
At the time it was believed to be simply due to disappointment at the defeat and general situation at the club.
However, on Thursday morning it has been revealed that it is due to the players being in dispute with Mike Ashley.
Last summer we saw a long drawn out farce with the Newcastle United owner refusing to agree to the going rate on squad bonuses, not wanting to agree to the same kind of deal that players had at rival clubs.
It eventually took a phone conversation between captain Jamaal Lascelles and Mike Ashley for it to be sorted (see below), the dispute not settled until a month into the season in mid-September.
The newspaper add that the Newcastle players even refused to speak to the club’s official TV channel and website last night.
This club operates in such a cheap, embarrassing and haphazard way, you would almost think it was owned by whoever is in charge at Sports Direct…
The Mag – 13 September 2017:
Mike Ashley once again released a PR ‘exclusive’ through Sky Sports at the weekend.
The story being that the NUFC owner would ‘donate £20m’ to the Newcastle players if they win the FA Cup this season.
This leading to much amusement at what other unrealistic bonuses could be offered, such as winning the Premier League, or the Champions League, or the Great North Run before scoring a double hat-trick at Swansea.
This PR announcement came against a backdrop of a row that had lasted all summer, with Mike Ashley having offered the Newcastle players a bonus scheme for this Premier League season that was way below what rival clubs have incentivised players with.
The offer on the table was £1m if they finished 17th and avoided relegation, which worked out on average at less than a week’s wages for each player.
That amount would then increase by £1m for every position above 17th.
The Newcastle players though were refusing to accept less than their rivals and a month into the season there was still no agreement.
However, agreement has now been reached.
Miles Starforth (of the Shields Gazette) has had the inside track on this story from the start and he has revealed that a phone conversation between Mike Ashley and Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles saw the bonus scheme eventually agreed.
On Wednesday morning he reports that the agreed deal is the same as what was on offer previously but that Newcastle players will share £4m if they avoid relegation in 17th place and then still an additional £1m for every position higher.
The Premier League payout at the end of the season sees the 20th placed club get £1.9m extra for finishing bottom, then for each place above they get an extra £1.9m.
So roughly speaking, Mike Ashley and the Newcastle players have agreed that the squad will receive half of the extra money the club receive depending on their position…plus the £20m for winning the FA Cup.
Now the players would receive the same £20m if they win the Premier League (cough cough) as they would the FA Cup.
I would happily settle for either…